This has to be one of the dumbest things I've heard in a long time. The UK has spent £4.4 billion ($6.6bn US) on a controversial
high-tech National Identity Card scheme for the whole country. But they forgot one thing. No police or border station, to say nothing of licensing and job centers, has a machine capable of reading the damn things.
Incredibly, they neglected to include in the budget the absolutely necessary counterpart to the card: the card reader. Like an inexperienced shopper who buys a digital camera but not a computer to view the pictures on, they are now in possession of a
far-reaching and complete ID tracking solution that they can in no way use. What a boondoggle!
The official word is that the reader rollout may cost taxpayer money (brilliant, Sherlock) and is not really being pursued that actively. While it would make sense to get a few IDs out there first and then follow up with the readers after six months,
perhaps, that was not at all included in the budget and in fact the readers' manufacturers haven't been convinced it's worth their while to make the things.
Brits who apply for or renew their passport will be automatically registered on the national identity card database under regulations to be approved by MPs in the next few weeks.
The decision to press ahead with the main elements of the national identity card scheme follows a review by the home secretary, Alan Johnson. Although Johnson claimed the cards would not be compulsory, critics say the passport measures amount to an
attempt to introduce the system by the backdoor.
Johnson said he had halted plans to introduce compulsory identity cards for airline pilots and 30,000 other critical workers at Manchester and London City airports this autumn in the face of threats of legal action. Longer term plans to extend
compulsory ID cards to other transport industries, such as the railways, as a condition of employment have also been scrapped.
But two batches of draft regulations to be approved by MPs tomorrow and next week are expected to include powers to make the passport a designated document under the national identity card scheme. This means that anyone applying for or renewing
their passport from 2011 will have their details automatically added to the national identity databases.
The regulations also include powers to levy a fine of up to £1,000 on those who fail to tell the authorities of a change of address or amend other key personal details such as a change of name within three months.
Johnson said he wanted to see the introduction of identity cards accelerated for foreign nationals resident in Britain and for young early adopters for whom they would act as a useful proof of age. This trial is to be extended from Manchester to
other parts of the north-west.
Isabella Sankey, director of policy at the human rights group Liberty, said the home secretary needed to be clear as to whether entry onto the national identity register was going to continue to be automatic when applying for a passport.
If so, the identity scheme will be compulsory in practice. However you spin it, big ears, four legs and a long trunk still make an elephant, she said.
Guy Herbert of the No2ID campaign said the pressing ahead with making the passport a designated document made a nonsense of the home secretary's assertion that the scheme was not compulsory: It is not compulsory as long as you don't want to
leave the country.
MPs have approved fines of up to £1,000 for those who fail to tell the passport and identity service of changes in their personal details including address, name, nationality and gender.
The fines are part of a package of secondary legislation being pushed through parliament designed to implement the national identity card scheme, and which will allow sensitive personal data on the ID card/passport database to be shared with the police,
security services and other government departments.
The regulations were approved as the Conservative party made clear for the first time their commitment to scrap not only the identity card scheme but also its underlying database.
The shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, told MPs: One of the first acts of a Conservative government will be cancelling the ID cards scheme. The scheme and the register are both an affront to British liberty and will have no place in a Conservative
Britain. They are also a huge waste of money.
The Conservatives' home affairs spokesman, Damian Green, asked how the scheme could be voluntary when they were penalties for failing to provide information for the database: If it is a voluntary card, why are there penalties attached for
failing to provide that information? he said, adding that the government should warn people that once they volunteer for a passport or ID card it was then compulsory for the rest of their lives.
Fines starting at £125 and rising to £1,000 are to be levied on those who fail to notify the authorities of a change of name or address, or to surrender an identity card, or to report a card lost, stolen, damaged, tampered with or destroyed.
Home Secretary Alan Johnson has unveiled the final design of the British national identity card.
The card will be offered to members of the public in the Greater Manchester area from the end of this year. Volunteering for a car will also incur a lifetime of having to keep the state informed of address changes etc under duress of enormous fines.
Ministers plan to launch the £30 biometric ID card nationwide in 2011 or 2012 - but it will not be immediately compulsory.
Opposition spokesmen said it was a colossal waste of money and civil liberty groups said it was as costly to our pockets as to our privacy.
Ministers say the card, which follows the launch of the foreign national ID card, will provide an easy way of safely proving identity.
The card is very similar in look to a UK driving licence but holds more data, including two fingerprints and a photograph encoded on a chip. This chip and its unique number in turn links the card to a national identity register which, under current
legislation, will hold more information about the identity of the individual.
If the scheme goes ahead, the card could be used as a travel document within Europe, separate to the passport, similar to arrangements between other EU member states.
Like the UK passport, the front of the card displays the royal crest as well as the thistle, the rose, the shamrock and the daffodil to represent the four parts of the UK.
No2ID, a national pressure group, is launching a counter-campaign across North-West England to derail the Home Office's plan. Dave Page, from the organisation, said: Once you are on that database, you can never come off it.
From the moment you're registered you'll have to tell the authorities of any change in your circumstances for the rest of your life - and pay whatever fees they ask for the 'service'.
You'll never know who's looking at your details. It won't protect our safety. It won't be convenient - except for Whitehall. This scheme is an expensive and dangerous con.
Only 8,000 people have enquired about getting the government's ID cards, which will be launched in Manchester.
During a live webchat at the M.E.N offices, Lord Bill Brett, the minister responsible for the introduction of the ID card scheme, admitted only a small percentage of the population had asked about the voluntary scheme.
Lord Brett hopes the cards, available in Manchester in October, will be rolled out across the north west by 2010, and eventually the rest of the country: We have not set targets for what is a purely voluntary scheme, but our research shows a majority
of people support ID cards. We are confident that support and the number of ID cards will grow incrementally in the period from its introduction in Manchester to the ongoing rollout across the country.
Meg Hillier, the Home Office minister stuck with responsibility for the scheme, revealed in a Commons answer this week that a whacking 1,300 people in Greater Manchester "have applied and attended an enrolment appointment for an identity card"
between November 30 and January 14, 2010.
An ad in the New Statesman was headlined I work on the Identity Card system for the UK Government. Below, text stated >The "National Identity Register" is the most detailed citizen database of its kind in the world. I am security
cleared, which means I can get anything I want, on any UK resident. Address, heath info, financial records, criminal records, whatever. >It's all meant to be stored securely but anyone who works on the project knows it can't be. Better yet, I have a
contact who works for a mobile telephone company, so sometimes I can cross-match a person to their geographical location for the last six months or more. I know exactly who they speak to. And when their mother calls. And where she lives, too. >I sell
information, if the price is right. Trade is good at the moment. It's mostly private investigators and newspapers, but I get some unusual stuff too. I don't ask questions. It's nothing personal; it's just business. >I am God :o). Text below read
The Government wants state management of personal identity. It isn't simple. Or safe. NO2ID is a non-partisan campaign to stop it. Join us. www.no2id.net.
A complainant objected that the ad:
misleadingly exaggerated the information that would be held on the National Identity Register and how staff would be able to access it
was offensive to those who worked for the National Identity Register and implied they were corrupt.
1. Not upheld
We noted the National Identity Register was not yet in existence, but that under current proposals, the database would not contain health, financial or criminal records. We considered, however, that readers of the New Statesman would understand that
NO2ID was a lobby group opposed to the ID card scheme and that the ad used an illustrative fictionalised account to set out their view that the ID card system was a threat to personal privacy and that a national database system might be vulnerable to
abuse. We noted that the issues relating to the National Identity Register and ID card scheme, including the information the database was likely to hold, had been well documented in the press, and considered people would recognise the ad was deliberately
controversial, to encourage discussion on a sensitive political issue. We concluded that the ad was not misleading.
2. Not upheld
We did not consider that most people would interpret the ad to mean that all those who might work for the National Identity Register, or a similar database scheme, were corrupt and likely to sell confidential information or abuse their position. We
considered people would understand that the ad was highlighting a lobbying group's opinion that a database containing personal information might be vulnerable to abuse by a minority of those who worked with it. We concluded therefore that the ad was
unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
Phil Woolas, the Immigration minister, faced ridicule last night after announcing that his own civil servants would be the first Britons to be issued with identity cards. He told MPs that applications for the £30 cards could be made by UK nationals
from next Tuesday.
Woolas added: This will apply to people working in the Home Office, the passport service and elsewhere, who are engaged on work relating to the issue of identity cards.
The scheme will be extended by the end of the year to residents of Greater Manchester and airside workers at Manchester and London City airports. Next year people across the North-west of England will be invited to apply for cards.
Damian Green, the shadow Immigration minister, said: This would be funny if it wasn't so expensive for the taxpayer. The Government is reduced to selling ID cards to its own staff in a desperate bid to prove that someone, somewhere, thinks that they
would benefit from the identity card scheme.
Before the Conservative party conference I questioned the party's commitment to liberty, but I have to concede that there is some sign that David Cameron has taken on board the arguments being made here and elsewhere. In a part of his conference speech
that was not well covered he said: To be British is to be sceptical of authority and the powers-that-be. That's why ID cards, 42 days and Labour's surveillance state are so utterly unacceptable, and why we will sweep the whole rotten edifice away.
An early adopter of the UK's controversial ID card was refused passage when he tried to board a ferry to Rotterdam.
Norman Eastwood and his wife had booked a passage from Hull with P&O Ferries on Saturday. The ID card, which has been offered on a voluntary basis to the public in Greater Manchester as part of a limited trial since last month, is meant to allow
travel across Europe as an alternative to a passport.
However P&O staff at check-in had never seen the card before and didn't know it was a valid travel document. The unfortunate Eastwood was told he would need his passport - which he had left at home - to travel.
We had no idea the ID card was being trialled, a P&O spokesman explained. Mr Eastwood turned up with a form of ID we didn't recognise. He was told that he wasn't going anywhere without a passport.
Eastwood was left with little option but to abandon Xmas shopping plans and head home, some 105 miles away. He told the BBC that the incident left him feeling humiliated and like a second-class citizen .
The ferry firm has offered Eastwood free ferry tickets and an apology for the mix-up. P&O has informed staff at all its UK ports about the ID card in order to prevent a repetition of the incident.
In a statement, the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) said: We have a standard and well established process for informing border agencies and carriers around the world of any change to international travel documents, which we followed in this case.
We are speaking to P&O to understand why this happened and ensure that there can be no repeat of it.
The voluntary sign-up to the ID card scheme has started in the capital when the Home Office announced that young Londoners
could now apply for a National ID card.
As reported in the Evening Standard, people aged 18 to 24 will be able to spend £30 on a biometric photocard that can be used to prove their age when buying alcohol or age-restricted goods, to gain entry to a nightclub, or even to travel in
Home Office minister Meg Hillier said that the National Identity Card would be an extremely useful tool . Adding that, with tough new laws clamping down on underage drinking, it will be more important than ever for young people to have
access to a universally accepted proof of age.
However, what this latest sales pitch neglects to mention is that by signing up, these young Londoners face having their personal details held on insecure government databases for the rest of their lives.
Moreover, in addition to the initial £30, under this intrusive scheme every registered individual will be obliged to notify any changes in their personal information – and failure to do so may incur a substantial fine.
As our friends at No2ID point out, cash-strapped students shouldn't even be thinking about spending £30 on an ID card when a) the Tories and the Lib Dems want rid of them and b) there are plenty of age verification cards available that cost
ID cards will be history within 100 days, the government said as it published laws to destroy the scheme.
The Home Office, for years tasked with promotion of the project under Labour, said it aims to pass the Identity Documents Bill before the Parliamentary recess starts in August.
It is the first legislation introduced by the ConDem coalition. Both parties campaigned against the scheme at the election.
The National Identity Register, the database that was set to centrally store an array of personal information about every British citizen, will also be consigned to the political dustbin. The next generation of biometric passports, which would also
have fed the National Identity Register, will be scrapped in separate legislation.
The wasteful, bureaucratic and intrusive ID card scheme represents everything that has been wrong with government in recent years, said Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg: By taking swift action to scrap it, we are making it clear that
this government won't sacrifice people's liberty for the sake of Ministers' pet projects.
A separate ID cards scheme for foreign nationals will go ahead.
Labour's ID cards were officially trashed when the Bill to abolish them received Royal Assent.
The few thousand cards that people bought voluntarily will be cancelled within a month.
In addition, the database holding the biographic information and biometric fingerprint data of cardholders, known as the National Identity Register, will be physically destroyed within two months.
The ID card scheme was symbolic of the last administration's obsession with control and nannying. It was put up as a panacea, capable of preventing everything from benefit fraud and illegal immigration to terrorism and organised crime.
As of 22nd January 2011 identity cards can no longer be used to prove identity or to travel in Europe.
The cards have been scrapped by the government under the Identity Documents Act.
Within days the National Identity Register - which was designed to hold the details of card holders - will be destroyed.
Immigration minister Damian Green said:
Laying ID cards to rest demonstrates the government's commitment to scale back the power of the state and restore civil liberties.
It is about the people having trust in the government to know when it is necessary and appropriate for the state to hold and use personal data, and it is about the government placing their trust in the common-sense and
responsible attitude of the people.
The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) (new window) has written to all existing cardholders and informed international border agencies, travel operators and customers of the change in law.
A database built to hold the fingerprints and personal details of millions of ID card holders has today been publicly destroyed.
Around 500 hard disk drives and 100 back up tapes containing the details of 15,000 early adopters have been magnetically wiped and shredded.
They will soon be incinerated in an environmentally friendly waste-for-energy process.
This signals an end to the National Identity Register which was built to hold the details of people who applied for an ID card.
The scheme was scrapped by the coalition government and the cards ceased to be valid legal documents on 22 January.
Home Office minister Damian Green helped shred the last of the hard disk drives at an Essex industrial site today.
Laying ID cards to rest demonstrates the government's commitment to scale back the power of the state and restore civil liberties, he said: This is about people having trust in the government to know when it is necessary and appropriate for the
state to hold and use personal data, and it is about the government placing their trust in the common-sense and responsible attitude of people. This is just the first step in the process of restoring and maintaining our freedoms.'
Now the Home Office has destroyed its prototype ID database in a publicity stunt, the government is putting the finishing touches to plans that would put the real Identity Scheme databases at the heart of a powerful government data sharing system.
The Government Cloud (G-Cloud), an ambitious Cabinet Office scheme to share IT resources and data across the whole of government, is seeking to remove all technical and organisational barriers to public sector data sharing.
Reports published last week by the Cabinet Office describe how G-Cloud will exhume the data sharing systems that underpinned ID Cards, along with the fatal data security risks that went with them. The principles will be applied to all government data.
The plans have been overseen by the same executives who oversaw the ID Scheme's data-sharing system, the ill-fated CISx.
The principle was established a year ago in the G-Cloud Vision, which was drafted by Martin Bellamy, the same civil servant who advised ministers to proceed with the CISx as one of two core components of the ID scheme.
Bellamy's Vision cited the CISx as an example of the sort of data sharing that would be possible within the G-Cloud. The CISx plan had involved turning the Department for Work and Pensions Customer Information System database (CIS), which contains
personal details of everyone in the country, into a system that could be accessed across the whole government.
The Home Office said last week its minister Damian Green had destroyed Labour's ID database. But he only destroyed the temporary system the Home Office erected in a hurry so it could get ID cards on the streets before the 2010 election. It had still not
proceeded with integrating the real ID databases because it was still trying to work out how to resolve their excruciating data security problems.
Government proposals to expand the National Health Service Central Register (NHSCR) will pave the way for a national ID register in Scotland. The
proposals have been made public in a little-known consultation that closes at the end of February. Digital rights campaigners, the Open Rights Group (ORG) believe that the consultation is flawed, misleading and could fundamentally change the relationship
between citizen and state.
Open Rights Group Executive Director, Jim Killock said:
Government proposals that jeopardise our right to privacy need proper consideration. The SNP rejected a national ID register when the UK government tried to introduce ID cards. These proposals could pave the way for a similar scheme in Scotland and are
being introduced without a proper debate by the public or MSPs.
Most Scottish citizens already have a unique identity number in the NHS system. This plan is to share this unique identifier with up to 120 other Scottish public bodies - including Glasgow Airport, the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Caledonian Maritime
Assets Ltd. Scottish residents could then be tracked across all their interactions with public bodies, including your benefits, bus pass travel or library usage.
ORG believes that this is building an ID card system in Scotland and that any such changes should be introduced as primary legislation, which would allow a proper public and parliamentary debate.
ORG has published its response
to the consultation.